Tuesday, April 20, 2010

One meter sea level rise will swallow over 2,700 km2 of Caribbean land area

From a post by Mark Eaken on NOAA's Coral_List listserve:

A new report spearheaded by the CARIBSAVE project under UNDP funding highlights the impacts of climate change on Caribbean nations and natural resources. In particular, the report highlights the difference in the impacts at the 2.0°C increase being pushed by many UN negotiators vs. the 1.5°C increase promoted by the Alliance of Small Island States. The report focuses on: the implications of ice sheet melt for global sea level rise (SLR); the projections and implications of SLR for the Caribbean region; evaluation of the differential impacts of +1.5° and +2°C on coral reefs, water resources and agriculture in the Caribbean, with additional analysis for the Pacific islands. Of particular interest are the sections on climate change and ocean acidification impacts on Caribbean coral reefs -- analysis led by NOAA's Coral Reef Watch and its partners.

Copies of the report's Key Findings, Executive Summary, and promotional posters can be downloaded from the CARIBSAVE Website at: http://www.caribsave.org/index.php?id=5


Monday, April 12, 2010

Final throes for Jamaica's 'Hippie Paradise'?

From an article by Kathy Barrett on ipsnews.net:

For centuries, Negril, a seven-mile stretch of white sand beach on the western tip of Jamaica, was cut off from the rest of the island by bad roads and a large swamp.

It remained relatively unknown to the world until the 1960s and 1970s, when U.S. "hippies," students and Vietnam veterans gravitated towards this laid-back village.

The U.S. travellers arrived in ever-increasing numbers and, towards the end of the 1970s, Negril blossomed as a tourist destination. But with the growing population and improved infrastructure, the natural beauty of Jamaica's third largest tourism centre has suffered visible deterioration.

"When I first visited Negril from Kingston in 1960, just after the first road to the coast was built, there were no buildings the entire length of the beach. The waters were crystal clear," wrote Thomas J. Goreau, president of the non-governmental U.S.-based Global Coral Reef Alliance, in a paper published in 1992.

"Now that it is Jamaica's fastest growing resort area, all the tall coconut trees are gone, the beaches are crowded with people and buildings," states the text.

Eighteen years later, the demise of the Negril environment has again been brought into sharp focus, this time by United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Division of Early Warning and Assessment.

Expert Pascal Peduzzi, who heads the Early Warning Unit, predicted in March that several beaches on the western end of Jamaica could be totally wiped out in the next five to 10 years if local authorities and residents do not act now.

His prediction is based on data coming out of a UNEP study on the role of the ecosystem in disaster risk reduction.

"The data has found that beaches in Negril are receding between half and one metre per year," said Peduzzi.

The scientific evidence shows that over the past 40 years Negril's beaches have undergone severe and irreversible shoreline erosion and retreat, according to the study entitled "Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Methodology Development Project (RiVAMP): The Case of Jamaica."

"The highest erosion rates have occurred after 1991, when beach recovery after storms has been slower, and these trends are likely to continue," Peduzzi said.

The UNEP report says bad environmental and building practices and illegal dumping of pollutants in the sea were killing sea grass and coral reefs, thus reducing their effectiveness in protecting the beaches from erosion. . . .

(*This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network. Tierramérica is a specialised news service produced by IPS with the backing of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme and the World Bank.)


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Underwater sculpture park launches second phase

From a post by saxfan_98 on cancunandrivieramaya@yahoogroups.com:

The National Park located on the West Coast of Isla Mujeres, Punta Cancun and Punta Nizuc, which welcomes approximately 750,000 annual tourists, will feature more than 400 concrete sculptures making it the world's largest underwater museum, located in the waters facing Cancun and Isla Mujeres.

At a cost of more than $350,000 dollars, the project has been put into place to help conserve natural reefs and give them the opportunity to flourish. The Marine National Park has stepped up to the challenge of diverting tourists away from natural habitats along the natural coral reef units, without losing their visitors and the $36 million dollars they bring into the area each year.

Since November 14th of last year, Phase 1 of the project included the sinking of three sculptures under the supervision of prominent artist and underwater sculptor Jason de Caires Taylor, including sculptures such as "Dream Collector," "Man on Fire" and "The Gardener of Hope."

The second phase of this magnificent project is well underway, with the hopes that it will eventually become the largest underwater museum in the world with more than 400 sculptures placed on the sand, as well as sunk to a variety of different depths, throughout the national park. These sculptures will be placed near natural reefs and marine life in order to create an artificial habitat. Once this stage is completed, additional artists will be invited to display their sculptures and contribute to the museum.

Each individual work of art will be life-sized and will be mounted on a base of four square meters and will consist of themed galleries such as "The Quiet Evolution."

The museum seeks to promote, among other things, the philosophy of conservation, as is the "Dream Collector" sculpture, which contains bottles with messages of good hope sent from around the world. One of the first messages in a bottle attached to the above mentioned sculpture reads: "May our hearts, never become as hard as our heads," by Roberto Diaz, President of the Cancun Underwater Museum. . . .

For more information, please visit the museum's Website.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Your Earth Day Action: Choose Sustainable Seafood

From an announcement issued by The Nature Conservancy:

Just like you, conservationists, fishermen, chefs and consumers are working together to find new ways of living off our oceans and waters while keeping nature healthy.

Love to cook? Find out why ocean conservation is important to world-renowned chefs Mario Batali and Dan Barber, and recreate their recipes for Mackerel in Scapece with Lemon Thyme and Sweet Peppers and Escabeche of Spanish Mackerel.

While you’re cooking, share your favorite seafood recipe.

And while you’re out, keep a copy of this pocket seafood guide by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in your wallet, or text Blue Ocean’s FishPhone to help you choose sustainable seafood at the grocery store or in a restaurant.


Monday, March 29, 2010

US to ban wild-harvest shrimp imports from

Dead turtle ensnared in fishing net floating in sea.

From an Associated Press article on Yahoo! News:

WASHINGTON – The State Department says Mexico is losing its certification to export wild-harvest shrimp to the United States because its trawls lack required protections for endangered sea turtles.

The department says the certification was withdrawn after the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service determined that Mexico's turtle excluder devices no longer meet U.S. standards. U.S. rules require that exporters use excluders comparable to those used by American shrimpers.

Certification for Mexican shrimpers will be withdrawn on April 20.

The Endangered Species Act lists six of the seven sea turtle species as endangered or threatened. The State Department said proper exclusion devices can prevent turtle mortality in shrimp trawl nets up to 97 percent.

David Cayless/Marine Photobank


Monday, March 22, 2010

Lionfish plague threatens Bahamian economy

Lionfish continue to spread throughout the southern Atlantic and Caribbean. From an article by Gladstone Thurston on the bahamasweekly.com:

MARSH HARBOUR. Bahamas -- The explosion of lionfish population in Bahamian waters is “a plague of biblical proportions stalking the Bahamian economy,” the Reef Conservancy Society of Abaco is warning.

They are convinced that unless urgent action is taken it will wreck tourism, fishing and related industries.

It has now been confirmed that lionfish, known for their voracious appetite for Bahamian marine life, have been decimating fish that tend the coral reefs.

The loss of herbivorous fish sets the stage for seaweeds to potentially overwhelm coral reefs and disrupt the delicate ecological balance in which they exist, studies show.

Following on the heals of over fishing, sediment depositions, coral bleaching, and increasing ocean acidity, “this is of grave concern,” said renown zoologist/marine biologist, Dr Mark Hixon, a professor at Oregon State University.

Dr Hixon and his group work from the Perry Institute for Marine Science, Lee Stocking Island, Exuma. They have a three-year grant from the US National Science Foundation to study lionfish.

He warned that the rapid reproduction potential of lionfish must now be understood in context with their ability to seriously depopulate coral reef ecosystems of other fish.

It is well documented that over fishing parrotfishes and other herbivores contributes to the death of reef-building corals. Lionfish are “highly effective” at ‘over-fishing’, he warned.


Friday, March 19, 2010

Volunteer at Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA)

From the newsletter of Centro Ecológico Akumal:

CEA is an organization that depends heavily on volunteers. If you have the willingness to have fun while you help to preserve the environment, come and be part of CEA! You can participate in different programs.

Our next Reef Monitoring phase begins this March 28, while our Sea Turtle Program will start May 10. Other programs are already running, but you may still apply. Don’t forget to send your application forms now!

For further information visit our Web site or send an e-mail to info@ceakumal.org.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Jamaica's beaches in danger, says UN expert

From an article in the Jamaica Observer by Kimmo Matthews:

A United Nations environmental expert is predicting that several beaches on the western end of Jamaica could be totally wiped out in the next five to 10 years if local authorities and citizens do not act now to protect the environment.

Pascal Peduzzi, head of the Early Warning Unit, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)/Division of Early Warning and Assessment/GRID-Europe, based his prediction on data coming out of a UNEP study on the role of the ecosystem in disaster risk reduction.

"Coming out of the study, data has been found that beaches in Negril are receding between 0.5 and one metre per year," Peduzzi told the Observer after the study was presented to the Government at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston recently.

According to the study, titled 'Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Methodology Development Project (RiVAMP) -- The Case of Jamaica', scientific evidence shows that over the past 40 years, Negril's beaches have been experiencing severe and irreversible shoreline erosion and retreat.

"Bloody Bay in the northern section of Negril has experienced lower erosion rates than Long Bay, with sections of Long Bay beach without coral reef cover showing higher rates of erosion," the study said. "The highest erosion rates have occurred after 1991, when beach recovery after storms has been slower, and these trends are likely to continue. It is expected that long-term sea level rise, changing patterns of tropical storms and cyclones in the region (in terms of both frequency and intensity), diminishing sand supplies due to coastal ecosystem degradation as well as coastal development will exert an even higher toll on Negril's beaches."

According to Peduzzi, not only were these findings a cause for concern, but there was a strong belief that other areas across the country could be experiencing the same problem.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Shark conservation proposal defeated at UN meeting

From an Associated Press article by Michael Casey:

DOHA, Qatar — China, Japan and Russia helped defeat a U.S.-endorsed proposal at a U.N. wildlife trade meeting Tuesday that would have boosted conservation efforts for sharks, expressing concern it would hurt poor nations and should be the responsibility of regional fisheries bodies.

The opposition to the shark proposal came hours after the marine conservation group Oceana came out with a report showing that demand for shark fin soup in Asia is driving many species of these big fish to the brink of extinction.

The nonbinding measure, which called for increased transparency in the shark trade and more research into the threat posed to sharks by illegal fishing, had been expected to gain approval by a committee of the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES.

But the United States, the European Union and other supporters were unable to muster the two-thirds majority needed after China, Russia, Japan and several developing countries argued that shark populations aren't suffering.

The decision could be a bad omen for a two-week meeting that will include much more controversial marine proposals, including banning the export of Atlantic bluefin tuna, which is popular with sushi lovers, and tightening the trade on eight shark species.


Monday, March 15, 2010

All American oceanic birds threatened by climate change, research finds

From an article on NatGeo News:

All 67 oceanic bird species in the United States are imperiled by the changing climate, the authors of a comprehensive assessment said today.

Many land-based birds are also at risk as habitat and food sources change.

The findings are published in the State of the Birds 2010 report, a collaborative effort as part of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative, involving federal and state wildlife agencies, and scientific and conservation organizations.

Partners include American Bird Conservancy, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Klamath Bird Observatory, National Audubon Society, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, U.S.D.A. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Geological Survey.

State of the Birds 2010 is the first comprehensive vulnerability assessment of bird species to climate change across the United States. U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the report's release at a press conference in Texas today, along with several environmental organizations that had collaborated on the publication.

"As climate change impacts are increasingly felt throughout the United States and beyond, conservation efforts affecting birds will take on a doubly important role in protecting not only birds that are already threatened, but also more common birds as well," said David Pashley, vice president of American Bird Conservancy, in a news release about the report. Pashley was one of the authors of the report.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

U.S. set to declare loggerhead turtles an endangered species

From an article on Underwatertimes.com:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Caribbean Conservation Corporation (CCC), the world's oldest sea turtle research and protection group, today applauded the proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to designate Northwest Atlantic loggerhead sea turtles as an endangered species. Until 1998 Northwest Atlantic loggerheads were an Endangered Species Act success story. This proposed change in status from threatened to endangered recognizes the plight of rapidly declining Northwest Atlantic loggerheads, which nest on beaches from North Carolina to Texas.

Florida accounts for over 90% of loggerhead nesting in the United States. Protection provided by the Endangered Species Act and implementation of regulations requiring Turtle Excluder Devices in shrimp nets to prevent the drowning of entrapped turtles contributed to encouraging nesting increases from 1986 to 1998. Since that time, however, nesting throughout Florida has declined by nearly 50%. Nesting populations also are declining in the other states, for which long-term information is available. "This proposal is long overdue," said David Godfrey, CCC's Executive Director.

Loggerheads face numerous threats onshore where they nest and at sea, but accidental capture, injury and death in commercial fisheries is perhaps the greatest peril to their survival today.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Limbaugh wants to shine lights on sea turtles

From a story on WTVJ-TV (Miami) by Todd Wright:

If you have ever listen to Rush Limbaugh, it would come as no surprise that he doesn't like a lot of things.

But you'd have to be a pretty cold-blooded S.O.B. not to like sea turtles. Limbaugh says: guilty as charged.

The shock jock and political loud mouth is taking time away from his busy schedule bashing Democrats to lob bombs at endangered sea turtles that arrive on South Florida beaches near his Palm Beach home.

Limbaugh doesn't like that he has to cut his back porch lights off so the sea turtles can nest and the hatchlings can safely return to the ocean. So he is taking out full page ads in the Palm Beach Post and other local papers to express his displeasure.

As if a syndicated radio wasn't enough of an audience.

“Imagine if you were told all your street lights had to be off for 8 months to protect the mating habits of geckos and feral cats, or whatever animal,” Limbaugh reportedly wrote to Page 2 Live, a Palm Beach blog.

The Town of Palm Beach requires its residents to turn off their outdoor lights from March 1 to Oct. 31, which is the turtles' nesting season. Scientists believe the lights confuse the large sea reptiles because they mistake them for the moon, which the animal uses to find its way to the beach and back to the ocean.

Too bad, so sad, said Limbaugh, who lives on the beach.

“I love landscape lighting,” he said.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Japan mayor protests dolphin hunt documentary Oscar

Though the horror occurs far from the Caribbean, The Cove, Oscar winner for Best Documentary, deserves recognition everywhere, even if the mayor doesn't like it. From a Reuters article posted at Broadcast Newsroom:

TOKYO (Reuters) - The mayor of a Japanese town which conducts an annual dolphin hunt protested on Monday against the Academy Award given to "The Cove," a documentary film about the grisly slaughter.

The film, which picked up an Oscar for best documentary feature in addition to a series of other awards, follows a group of activists who struggle with Japanese police and fishermen to gain access to a secluded cove in Taiji, southern Japan, where dolphins are hunted.

It features shocking footage of the slaughter.

"I think it is regrettable that the film presents as fact material that is not backed up by scientific proof," Taiji mayor Kazutaka Sangen said in a faxed statement. He emphasized that the hunt was legal in Japan and urged respect for the tradition.

"There are a variety of customs relating to food, within this country and abroad," he said.

"An attitude of mutual respect is necessary, based on understanding of the years-old traditions arising from these customs and the circumstances surrounding them."

The film, directed by former National Geographic photographer Louie Psihoyos and featuring a former dolphin trainer from the "Flipper" television series, is little known in Japan, where the government says the hunting of dolphins and whales is an important cultural tradition.


Monday, March 8, 2010

As Florida Keys residents confront rising sea levels, what lessons?

From an article by Richard Luscombein the Christian Science Monitor:

Waters around the Florida Keys are nine inches higher than a century ago. Efforts to battle rising sea levels make the Keys 'a canary in the coal mine,' an indicator of what other areas might need to prepare for.

(Big Pine Key, FLA.) - On many mornings over the past 22 years, the Rev. Tony Mullane has pulled back his bedroom curtains and watched endangered Key deer roaming the grounds of St. Peter Catholic Church. He considers the free nature show one of the bonuses of his ministry in the Florida Keys.

On other days, however, there are no deer to be seen – only water from the Straits of Florida lapping perilously near to the church buildings.

"It does come close to the church in a high tide," says Father Tony, as he's known. "There's a gravel pit behind us that's supposed to be a natural buffer from the water of Coupon Bight, but it fills, and sometimes laps over into, the church grounds."

What is happening at St. Peter is being repeated across the length of the 125-mile, low-lying island chain off Florida's south coast. Average sea levels on the islands are already nine inches higher than a century ago, according to environmental studies. Flooding has become much more common, which has prompted local officials and others to explore remedies. But in some cases, just how the islanders should proceed is still being figured out. (Read here to learn how the Netherlands have fought rising sea levels.)

"High tides are higher today, reaching farther inland than they did in the past. And the frequency of tides high enough to flood streets and salt-sensitive natural areas is greater," says Chris Bergh, director of the Nature Conservancy's Florida Keys program, who cites both his own observations and data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"Some change is inevitable," adds Mr. Bergh, who lives on Big Pine Key with his wife, Elizabeth, and son, Nate. "It's how we adapt to that change and manage it to our best advantage."

Of course, the Florida Keys aren't the only low-lying places in the United States. People in plenty of other coastal areas are keeping an eye on the sea level – and are concerned about the future.


Friday, March 5, 2010

Fishy Love

From an article by Anna DeLoach in the REEF newsletter:

The first time we ever saw Hamlets spawn, Ned and I were on a liveaboard REEF trip in Belize. We were just starting serious work on the behavior book at the time and still unaware of just how rewarding dusk dives can be for fish watchers. Trying to squeeze in a fourth dive before dark, our group dropped in just before sunset, agreeing to be back up in time for dinner.

These were the days when I could still add new fish to my life list on almost every dive trip and the charismatic Hamlets with their 11 distinct color morphs and various “hybrid” variations were especially prized sightings (we’ll save the species debate for another day). Hamlets are solitary hunters during the day. So when we saw two chasing each other about, we instinctively knew something out of the ordinary was happening. But, was it love or war?

The video is from FishWeSpeak on YouTube.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Huge garbage patch found in Atlantic too

From an article by Richard A. Lovett for National Geographic News:

Billions of bits of plastic are accumulating in a massive garbage patch in the Atlantic Ocean—a lesser known cousin to the Texas-size trash vortex in the Pacific, scientists say.

"Many people have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch," said Kara Lavender Law, an oceanographer at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

"But this issue has essentially been ignored in the Atlantic."

The newly described garbage patch sits hundreds of miles off the North American coast. Although its east-west span is unknown, the patch covers a region between 22 and 38 degrees north latitude—roughly the distance from Cuba to Virginia.

As with the Pacific garbage patch, plastic can circulate in this part of the Atlantic Ocean for years, posing health risks to fish, seabirds, and other marine animals that accidentally eat the litter.

Elusive Ocean Trash
To get a clear picture of the Atlantic garbage patch, Law drew on 22 years of data collected by students participating in her association's SEA Semester academic program.

As part of this program, more than 7,000 students have gone on research cruises, deploying thousands of fine-meshed plankton nets to meticulously catalog bits of plastic enmeshed with the drifting plants and animals.

Tiny pieces of trash, each less than a tenth the weight of a paper clip, make up most of the debris, Law said February 23 at the American Geophysical Union's 2010 Ocean Sciences meeting in Portland, Oregon.

In some places the students found more than 200,000 bits of trash per square kilometer (520,000 bits per square mile). The vast majority of these fragments come from consumer products that were blown out of open landfills or were tossed out by litterbugs.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Falling harvest triggers Yucatán lobster fishing ban

From an article on Fish Information & Services (FIS):

The capture of marine lobster in the waters of the Yucatan state will be prohibited as from 1 March to 30 June 2010, indicated the Secretariat of Agricultural and Fisheries Development.

According to Delfin Quezada Dominguez, director of Fisheries and Aquaculture, the measure taken aims to protect the reproductive phase of the species and assure the natural repopulation of the marine ecosystem.

"This fishery is considered important in our entity given the economic income that fish producers obtain through it, which is why it is considered a sustainable fishery. It is therefore necessary to respect it," affirmed the official.

In addition, he asked that lobster fishers respect the government measures and protect the juvenile population that comprises the reproductive stock.

The average catch of the crustacean in the Yucatan state was of 350 tonnes over the last 10 years, Quezada Dominguez noted.

However, catch has been falling over the years and last season was no exception. The goal set was not surpassed, [instead] oscillating between 100 and 120 tonnes, Diario de Yucatan reports.


Monday, March 1, 2010

What will you do?

What Will You Do? - In this specially made film for WCPA - Marine, world-renowned cinematographer Bob Talbot gives us his perspective on our one ocean and the trouble it's in. Together we can make a difference. What we do today, will determine the ocean our children inherit tomorrow. Learn more.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Participation "important for healthy marine parks"

From an article on Coral Reef Studies:

The involvement of locals is a key ingredient in the success of marine parks which protect coral reefs and fish stocks.

The largest-scale study to date of how coastal communities influence successful outcomes in marine reserves has found that human population pressure was a critical factor in whether or not a reserve succeeded in protecting marine resources – but so too was local involvement in research and management.

The team looked at how successful coral reef marine reserves were at conserving fish stocks. They studied 56 marine reserves from 19 different countries throughout Asia, the Indian Ocean, and the Caribbean.

“About ¾ of the marine reserves we studied showed a positive difference in the amount of fish inside compared to outside – so most reserves we studied were working” says Dr Josh Cinner of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University

“However, the differences weren’t always large. The most successful reserves showed really big differences of 14 times the amount of fish inside compared to outside, but that wasn’t always the case.

“What we were most interested in, was understanding what made some reserves more successful than others. One of the best predictors of how 'successful' a marine reserve was, is actually the size of the human communities around the reserve – but interestingly, this varied in different regions.

“In the Indian Ocean, for example, where reserves are government-controlled and moderate in size (around six square kilometres on average), having lots of people nearby had a positive effect. But this could be because marine resources outside the reserve are heavily degraded, accentuating the healthier state of those inside the reserve.

“In the Caribbean, we found the opposite. Large human populations near reserves led to poor performance of the reserve – which may be due to low compliance or poor enforcement in marine parks near population centers,” Dr Cinner said.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Coral loss slowed, reversed by marine protected areas

From a news release issued by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

A new worldwide study shows marine protected areas (MPAs), underwater parks where fishing and other potentially harmful activities are regulated, provide an added bonus – helping coral reef ecosystems ward off and recover from threats to their health.

Researchers also found the protective effects of MPAs generally strengthen over time.

The findings, published in the Feb. 17, 2010, issue of the journal PLoS One, are the first comprehensive global study to gauge the impact of marine protected areas on the health of corals.

Such havens have proved successful in protecting fish, leading to optimism among researchers that they may also indirectly help corals by restoring reef-based food webs. Previous studies also suggested such conservation zones can directly protect reefs from problems such as overfishing, anchor damage and sediment and nutrient runoff pollution from adjacent land.

Marine scientists Elizabeth Selig, Ph.D., and John Bruno, Ph.D., from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, analyzed a global database of 8,534 live coral cover surveys conducted between 1969 and 2006.

They compared changes in coral cover in 310 marine protected areas to those in nearby unprotected areas, looking at 4,456 reefs in 83 countries. Coral cover, or the percentage of the ocean floor covered by living coral tissue, is a key measure of the health of coral ecosystems.

“We found that, on average, coral cover in protected areas remained constant, but declined on unprotected reefs,” said Selig, the study’s lead author, who completed the work for her doctoral dissertation at UNC. She is now a researcher with Conservation International.

Bruno, associate professor of marine sciences in the UNC College of Arts and Sciences, said the results also suggest the protective benefits of such areas increase with time. Initially, coral cover continued to decrease after protections were put in place. However, several years later, rates of decline slowed and then stopped.

For example, in the Caribbean, coral cover declined for about 14 years after protection began – possibly due to the time it took for fisheries to rebound – but then stopped falling and began to increase. In the Indo-Pacific, cover kept declining for the first five years after protections were established, then began to improve, eventually reaching growth rates of two percent yearly after two decades.

“Given the time it takes to maximize these benefits, it makes sense to establish more marine protected areas. Authorities also need to strengthen efforts to enforce the rules in existing areas,” Bruno said.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Marine census grows near completion

From an Associated Press article by Randolph Schmid in the Seattle Times:

From pole to pole, surface to frigid depths, researchers have discovered thousands of new ocean creatures in a decade-long effort now nearing completion, and there may still be several times more strange creatures to be found, leaders of the Census of Marine Life reported Thursday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The effort has "given us a much clearer window into marine life," said Shirley Pomponi, executive director of the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University in Fort Pierce.

The research, which has involved thousands of scientists from around the world, got under way in 2000 and the final report is scheduled to be released in London on Oct. 4.

Last fall the census reported having added 5,600 new ocean species to those already known. Ron O'Dor, a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, said there may be another 100,000 or more to be found. "Add microbes and it could be millions," he said.

One benefit of learning more about ocean life is the chance of finding new medical treatments, Pomponi said.

For example, a chemical discovered in deep water sponges is now a component of the cream used to treat herpes infections, Pomponi said. Other research is under way on pain killers and cancer treatments based on ocean life.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

How tiny turtle hatchlings make their first steps

From a story on the BBC:

Scientists have uncovered how hatchling loggerhead turtles make their first steps across sand as they travel from their nests towards the sea.

This journey is treacherous: with every step, the tiny creatures face attack, and the unstable surface is notoriously difficult to walk on - especially for an animal with limbs that are adapted for a life at sea.

Now, after studying slow-motion footage, a team of researchers was surprised to find that the turtles do not "swim" through the sand.

Instead, with each step, a solidified block of sand forms behind their paddle-like flippers, allowing them to generate enough force to push forward towards the sea.

The research is published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, and was carried out by Nicole Mazouchova, Nick Gravish, Andrei Savu and Daniel Goldman from the Georgia Institute of Technology, US.

The story also includes video.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Take action during International Year of Biodiversity

2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB), a unique opportunity to increase understanding of the vital role that biodiversity plays in sustaining life on Earth. Declared by the United Nations, IYB now has a multitude of international partners, will host many celebrations and events and provides key information about the importance of biodiversity.

The key message of the IYB is: Humans are part of nature’s rich diversity and have the power to protect or destroy it. Biodiversity, the variety of life on Earth, is essential to sustaining the living networks and systems that provide us all with health, wealth, food, fuel and the vital services our lives depend on. Human activity is causing the diversity of life on Earth to be lost at a greatly accelerated rate. These losses are irreversible, impoverish us all and damage the life support systems we rely on everyday. But we can prevent them. 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity. Let’s reflect on our achievements to safeguard biodiversity and focus on the urgency of our challenge for the future. Now is the time to act.

WILD is proud to be a partner of IYB and will continue to post news about biodiversity on the blog and in other publications throughout the year, especially the “Species of the Day,” which features a different IUCN red list species each day!


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Six-word turtle stories

Leading up to the International Sea Turtle Symposium in Goa, India, subscribers to NOAA's CTURTLE listserve have been writing six-word turtle stories:

I think I'm a turtle geek

Turtle conservation is a social endeavor

Turtle tumors take a toll too

Turtles, Great Ambassadors of Oceans’ Worldwide

Alas no more what Columbus saw

What'd Darwin say about black turtles?

Lean, mean post nesting migration machine

When I Saw Her Crawling There

Little Sea Turtle Workshop evolved: ISTS

Beach development destroys beaches....Goodbye Tortugas

Turtles need bycatch reduction, population recovery

Sea turtles: we know so little

Late nights, mosquitoes; best job ever

Eggs, hatchlings, decades, adult. repeat

Responding to conservation, requires further action

In saving turtles, we save ourselves

Creativity and artistry combine for conservation

What's next, sea turtle haiku competition?

All conservationists love sea turtles worldwide

New lives tumbling to water's edge

Take the time to turtle travel

Thirty symposia and still we study

Ancient, beautiful, serene; are turtles marine

Detritus, seagrass, macroalgae, green turtles, sharks

Freaks and geeks and turtle fanatics

Bags are for humans, not turtles

Que vivan las tortugas marinas! Jodido!!!

Caring for oceans cares for turtles

Progressing beyond turtle research and education

Ancient mariners magically navigating Earth’s oceans

Turtles worldwide, not yet world wearied

And all the turtles were free

Six word sea turtle stories rock

Turtles started when we were projects

They saw dinosaurs come and go

Tracking their future survival through satellite

Sea turtles. Global messengers. Get it!

Tortuguero's success feeds many Caribbean fisherfolk

Global marine turtles outlasting the dinosaurs

Ridleys galore, poaching and drowning avoid

Tortugueros no necesitan huevos de tortuga

The Tippling Turtler hatches many collaborations

Endearing dinosaurs teach lessons in persistence

Reproduce, bycatch, migrate, bycatch, forage, bycatch

Gang interested on sea turtle conservation

Worldwide gang conserving sea turtle species

Owned by none, belong to all

Critically Endangered and highly conservation worthy

Many minds working together solve problems

I do not eat turtle eggs

Turtles or people? People and turtles

Tortugas o Gente? Gente y Tortugas

The sea turtles are my heritage

Las tortugas marinas son mi legado

So many turtles, so litle time

Sea turtles thriving in unpolluted seas

Not Endangered; but still conservation worthy

Flipper kick – a mouthful of sand

I imagine throngs of sea turtles

Mystery millenarian navigators in magnificent oceans

Turtle passion, hopefully and future conservation

Blood sugar magic turtle's madness passion

EP hawksbills gone? Ask El Salvador

Keep walking, with patience and passion

Turtles: members of, not the, ecosystem

Turtles are dead without a TED

Ocean nomads guided by magnetism: Cool

That's a great animal, let's eat

No more left? That's too bad

Pickled Pigs Lips = Tip of Iceberg

Go ahead, eat one, there's plenty

Leatherback turtles belong to the world

Pacific leatherbacks need Baulas National Park

One day, 150 million years ago

I read So Excellent a Fishe

Sea turtles all the way down

Yes, leatherbacks really are in Canada

Working together, sea turtle survival assured!

Stars shining, eggs safe, heart content

Love and Care, Sea Turtle’s Tear

Endearing dinosaurs teach lessons in persistence

An old present to the future

Sea turtles in the oceans forever

United for sea turtle survival worldwide

Mama leatherback,tropic winters, Acadian summers

Underestimate Frank at your own peril

Zander Srodes for 50th ISTS president

My best memories: Turtles and friends


Monday, February 15, 2010

US agency to review threats to 82 coral species

From an Associated Press article by David McFadden in The Washinton Post:

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- U.S. officials said Wednesday they have begun a review to determine if dozens of coral species off Florida, Hawaii and island territories of the Caribbean and Pacific should be listed as "threatened" or "endangered."

Currently, only reef-building staghorn and elkhorn corals are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, the first corals ever to receive such protection based on dramatic declines.

In the federal register Wednesday, the National Marine Fisheries Service said an Oct. 20 petition filed by a U.S. conservation group "presents substantial scientific or commercial information" indicating protection may be warranted for 82 additional species.

Among the list of 82 to be considered for protection is the mountainous star coral, once considered the dominant reef-building coral in the Atlantic. The majority of coral species included in the review belong to either the wider Caribbean or Indo-Pacific regions.


Friday, February 12, 2010

See the Riviera Maya from the air

Locogringo.com has aerial photos of nearly every inch of coast line, including homes, businesses, and resorts, along the Riviera Maya.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Turtle meat price soars

From an article distributted by the Cayman News Service:

(CNS): The new managing director of the Turtle Farm has made his first major decision, which will see the cost of turtle meat triple in price. In a written statement issued on Friday evening, Timothy Adam, who has been in post less than two weeks, said the business now needs to raise the selling price on turtle meat to reflect the true cost of production and maintenance of the Cayman Turtle Farm facilities. From Monday, 8 February, turtle steak will cost CI$27.00 per pound, three times its current price. Recognizing the cultural significance of the meat, the new MD and the board said they were committed to doing what it takes to protect the future of the farm.

According to the statement, the price of the turtle stew will rise from CI$5.40 per pound to CI$16.00 per pound, turtle menavelin will rise from CI$4.00 per pound to CI$12.00 per pound, and the bone from CI$2.00 per pound to CI$6.00.

Calicia Burke, Marketing Manager at the farm, said that farmed turtle meat is one of the rarest forms of food as it is found only in the Cayman Islands and only from the Cayman Turtle Farm. "Our farm avoids the need for any green sea turtles to be taken from the wild by the general public. Our aim is to continue facilitating conservation and preservation of the species through our strategies of commercialization, leading-edge research and technological development of green sea turtle farming,” she said.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Whale sharks of Holbox

A description of a stunning video from Kip Evans:

The waters around Isla Holbox off Mexicos Yucatán Peninsula teem with plankton, a feast for giant whale sharks—10-meter giants that gather by the hundreds from June through September. These super-sized but toothless filter feeders are the core of a local tourism industry, but over-development could threaten this delicate balance. Dr. Sylvia Earle narrates. Kip Evans - Producer and Director of Photography

Photo: (c) Wolcott Henry 2005/Marine Photobank


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

CEA sets 2010 objectives

A message from Paul Sanchez-Navarro, executive director of Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA):

CEA continues to work on three main conservation program fronts---marine and coastal protection, sea turtle protection and water quality, in the Akumal region.

This year, our programs are focused on the following objectives:

Marine and Coastal Program:
•Strengthen and improve the Akumal Bays Management Program; improve tour operator participation; increase federal authority participation; expand program actions from Yal Ku to Aventuras Akumal, as designed in the original program
•Continue reef monitoring activities; increase marine research.

Sea Turtle Program:
•Strengthen nesting monitoring and protection activities
•Implement juvenile turtle protection measures in Akumal Bay
•Improve awareness-raising information on sea turtles in local hotels
•Carry out 8th Annual Tulúm Sea Turtle Festival in Akumal
•Successfully participate as president of the Regional Sea Turtle Committee

Water Quality Program:
•Carry out connection program in Akumal Pueblo
•Improve tourism sector management of wastewater
•Carry out water quality testing in Akumal
•Review at least 25% of Akumal's artificial wetlands
•Map contaminants in Akumal region
•Obtain funding for lab renovation

Environmental Sustainability Program:
•Formally protect jungle and mangrove land around Akumal
•Ensure adequate ecological zoning of Tulúm municipality
•Increase local hotel participation in CEA Eco-certification and Recycling project

Environmental Education Program:
•Improve classroom activities for Akumal Pueblo, including teacher training
•Implement recycling program for Akumal
•Improve educational materials for visitors

Communications Program:
•Increase conservation program information on Web site
•Publish informative brochures
•Improve information dissemination through all media
•Organize university group visits

We thank everyone for their support in helping us to achieve our goals. We will report on the results of these objectives throughout the year.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Help fund turtle director's trip to international symposium

From the home page of Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA):

In April 2010, the International Sea Turtle Symposium will take place at Goa, India. Our Sea Turtle Program will present information on our conservation efforts to protect Akumal's turtles.

We have registered Armando, our "Turtle Man," to participate but a trip to India costs more than our budget allows. We need you! We raise 1,200USD and we still need about 1,800 USD.

CEA's Sea Turtle Program and Armando have worked for many years for our turtles, and we have a chance to share our experience and results internationally, as well as to learn from so many other programs from around the world.

Want to help? Special donations.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Financial Support Sought for Care of Florida's Cold-Stunned Sea Turtles

From an article on Environmental News Service:

GAINSVILLE, Florida, February 3, 2010 (ENS) - Chilly ocean waters during Florida's recent cold snap posed a survival threat to thousands of endangered sea turtles in Florida waters that persists although the waters have warmed somewhat.

In winter, sea turtles usually swim to Florida for its warm waters and rich food sources, but this January Florida temperatures hit a 20 year low, and the National Weather Service forecasts "below normal temperatures" in February.

Thousands of cold-stunned sea turtles were found floating listlessly in the water or washing up on shore. In the worst cases, turtles become catatonic and cannot even lift their heads out of the water to breathe.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, FWC, conservation groups, rehabilitation facilities and aquariums responded but now are struggling with financial shortfalls.

The FWC, with its partners, worked together to pick up turtles disabled by the cold. If left unaided, most of these turtles would not have survived. Many would have been attacked by predators, hit by boats or simply drowned, the state wildlife agency said.

The sea turtles were taken to staging areas, where biologists assessed their conditions and to triage areas and rehabilitation facilities. Each animal was examined for injuries, measured, weighed and a tissue sample taken. Metal tags with a unique identification numbers were placed on the sea turtles' front flippers. The tags will provide biologists with useful information in the future, including where the turtles travel and their rate of survival. . . .

The world's oldest sea turtle conservation group, Caribbean Conservation Corporation, responded along with other rescue organizations in what is being called the largest turtle rescue effort in history.

"We've never seen anything like this before," said CCC Executive Director David Godfrey. "I can't say enough about the heroic efforts of volunteers, conservation groups and agency staff around Florida who responded swiftly to this crisis. . . ."

CCC is raising emergency funds to help pay for veterinary care and medical supplies to treat hundreds of sea turtles struggling to survive. Some emergency funds are being provided through Florida's Sea Turtle Grants Program, which raises money through the sale of Florida's sea turtle license plate. About $20,000 is available from this source, but Godfrey estimates that four times that much will be needed to adequately care for all the turtles.

For more information on this emergency fund, please visit www.cccturtle.org or call 1-800-678-7853. To see the sea turtle recovery effort in action click here.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Riviera Maya turtle trip, July 25 - August 1, 2010

From a trip announcement from Maya Riviera Vacation:

This trip is designed for families with all ages. It is during the height of Turtle Season when you will see juveniles swimming and feeding in the bay, mothers nesting and babies hatching. In addition to a great vacation it will also be an eco-trip that will benefit Centro Ecologico Akumal.

What's included:
Accommodations at either Hotel Akumal Caribe or at Casa Romero's Complex.
Turtle Talk by Centro Ecologico Akumal
Turtle Walk by CEA
Eco-Beach Walk by CEA
Snorkeling Tour of Akumal Bay by CEA
Entrance into Yal Ku Lagoon
Sunset Sail
Admission to Xcaret
Entrance to Xel Ha
Picnic at Xcacel
Welcome Dinner at Lolha
Ground Transportation
Spa Credit for Adults


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Responding to climate change -- training for trainers, June 21-25

From an announcement on Reef Resilience:

We are pleased to announce that the Nature Conservancy, in partnership with NOAA, and with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, will offer a workshop for Trainers from throughout Florida and the Caribbean to learn about building resilience into reef management and the tools available for addressing the impacts of climate change. The meeting will bring together managers/trainers from throughout Florida and the Caribbean to learn and share ideas that will lead to more effective long‐term coral reef management. The workshop is designed to provide an atmosphere of exchange and creative problem solving so that participants leave with a specific training plan for their locale. Resources recently developed through major international collaborations will be highlighted and distributed to participants (e.g., Resilience Toolkit, Reef Managers Guide to Bleaching, etc.) The workshop will be facilitated by regional and global experts in coral reef management.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Quiet hurricane seasons run counter to computer predictions

From an article in The New York Times by Evan Lehmann of Climate Wire:

Recent computer models predicting that more hurricanes will strike U.S. shorelines have vastly overestimated the financial losses suffered by insurance companies, according to a new analysis.

The simulations, called "near-term models" because they predict storm strikes over five years, were launched in 2006 after two vicious seasons of landfall hurricanes, including Katrina, crushed homes and businesses along much of the Gulf Coast and Florida. The models emphasize rising storm risk caused by warmer ocean water.

Now, with only one year left in those first forecasts, the models issued by three different firms have so far overshot the level of damage by tens of billions of dollars. A string of relatively benign hurricane seasons began just as the models were introduced.

Storms caused $13.3 billion in damages between 2006 and 2009, far below even conservative expectations. Near-term models predicted much deeper devastation, ranging from $48.8 billion to $54.6 billion during that same period.

"Four years into the five year projection period, the near term models have not performed well as predictive tools. Hurricane activity changes markedly from year to year, and the active hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005 have not proven to be harbingers of a continuing trend for 2006 through 2009," says a report by Karen Clark & Co., a risk management firm operated by an early architect of catastrophe models.

Near-term models are something of an experiment. Unlike traditional models, they don't use a century's worth of hurricane data related to frequency, landfall and wind speed. Instead, modelers input information from the warmest -- and most dangerous -- periods of the past. That's when hurricanes tend to strike with a fist.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Rage and the economics of the environment

From an interview of British economist Tim Jackson by Stephen Leahy posted on Tierramerica.info:

"The continued pursuit of growth endangers the ecosystems on which we depend for long-term survival," says the British economist, ferocious critic of the Copenhagen Accord on climate change.

TORONTO, Canada, Jan 25 (Tierramérica).- "Rage is sometimes the appropriate response" to the failure of the world's leaders to craft a new climate treaty in Copenhagen, says British economist Tim Jackson.

The Copenhagen Accord, the outcome of the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December, not only revealed global environmental governance as a fiction, but also demonstrated a continuing blind adherence to the mantra of economic growth, says Jackson

Professor of sustainable development and director of the Research Group on Lifestyles, Values and Environment at Surrey University in Britain, Jackson is also a British government advisor and economics commissioner for the Sustainable Development Commission.

Jackson is also a professional playwright with numerous radio-writing credits for the BBC, based in London.

Tierramérica's Stephen Leahy spoke with Jackson by phone about his new, controversial book "Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet", the Copenhagen Accord and prospects for a real climate treaty, continuing a conversation they began last month in Copenhagen.

TIERRAMÉRICA: Your book "Prosperity without Growth" argues that economic growth in developed countries is making people less happy and destroying the Earth itself.

TIM JACKSON: It's clear the continued pursuit of growth endangers the ecosystems on which we depend for long-term survival.

There is also ample evidence that increasing material wealth in developed countries is not making people any happier, but just the opposite in some countries. Beyond a certain level of income, there is no correlation of greater income with greater happiness.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Last decade was the warmest ever, says NASA

From an Agence France-Presse article posted on Grist:

WASHINGTON—The past decade was the warmest ever, according to a new analysis of global surface temperatures released by NASA.

The U.S. space agency also found that 2009 was the second-warmest year on record since modern temperature measurements began in 1880. Last year was only a small fraction of a degree cooler than 2005, the warmest yet, putting 2009 in a virtual tie with the other hottest years, which have all occurred since 1998.

According to James Hansen, who heads NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, global temperatures change due to variations in ocean heating and cooling. “When we average temperature over five or 10 years to minimize that variability, we find global warming is continuing unabated,” Hansen said in a statement.

A strong La Niña effect that cooled the tropical Pacific Ocean made 2008 the coolest year of the decade, according to the New York-based institute.

In analyzing the data, NASA scientists found a clear warming trend, although a leveling off took place in the 1940s and 1970s. The records showed that temperatures trended upward by about 0.36 degrees F per decade over the past 30 years. Average global temperatures have increased a total of about 1.5 degrees F since 1880.

“That’s the important number to keep in mind,” said Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist with the institute. “The difference between the second and sixth warmest years is trivial because the known uncertainty in the temperature measurement is larger than some of the differences between the warmest years.”

Last year’s near-record temperatures took place despite an unseasonably cool December in much of North America and a warmer-than-normal Arctic, with frigid air from the Arctic rushing into the region while warmer mid-latitude air shifted northward, the institute said.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Florida cold snap killed numerous Keys manatees

From an article by Kevin Ladlow on KeysNet.com:

Frigid waters in the Keys during this month's record cold snap killed manatees and corals, in addition to untold numbers of fish, biologists say.

"This is an unprecedented event as far as the Keys marine environment is concerned," said Billy Causey, southeast regional director for the National Marine Sanctuaries Program.

"This one will do down in the history books," Causey said. "We'll be cleaning up after this one for quite some time."

Seven dead manatees were found in Upper Keys waters between Jan. 18 and 22, part of a record 107 manatees killed statewide from Jan. 1 to 23.

The 107 dead manatees nearly doubles the previous record of 56 manatee deaths in a single month, set in January 2009.

Biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported that 77 deaths are directly attributable to "cold stress," and several others likely died as a result of the cold.

Nine dead manatees were found in waters of mainland Monroe County, off Flamingo and Everglades City.

"Any time the water gets below 60 degrees, manatees don't do well," said Mary Stella of the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key. "It was colder tan that for a long time."


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Florida Keys coral takes lethal hit from cold

From an article on UnderwaterTimes.com:

SUMMERLAND KEY, Florida -- Sustained cold water temperatures in South Florida and the Florida Keys triggered severe coral bleaching and even coral death, alerting resource managers and prompting a coordinated assessment response from the science community. Temperatures in some nearshore areas of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary dropped to 52 degrees Fahrenheit for several days - well below average for this time of year — with fatal results for some corals.

A cold-water bleaching and die-off hasn't occurred in Florida since the late 1970s.

"The Keys have not seen a cold-water bleaching event like this since the winter of 1977-78, when acres of staghorn coral perished," said Dr. Billy Causey, southeast regional director of NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. "But today we are better prepared to document and assess the impacts of stress thanks to numerous partners." Causey has lived and worked in the Keys since 1971.

Over the next two weeks, teams of science divers from federal and state agencies and non-governmental and academic organizations will be surveying sites from the Dry Tortugas through Martin County to assess and monitor mortality and changes in coral health. The site locations and survey protocol were developed by The Nature Conservancy and other members of the Florida Reef Resilience Program for monitoring impacts to corals following a major disturbance, such as a mass-bleaching event.

Coral bleaching occurs when a coral animal undergoes stress and loses its symbiotic algae (called zoxanthellae). Prolonged stress can result in coral death. Coral bleaching is most frequently associated with elevated water temperatures, but stress also occurs when water temperatures dip below the preferred 60-degree threshold.

"If there is any ‘good news' it's that reef managers and scientists are able to quickly respond to this event and are in a good position to learn more about how reefs will rebound following such a rare occurrence," said Chris Bergh, director of The Nature Conservancy's Coastal and Marine Resilience Program.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Group sues to force US protection of coral

From an Associated Press article by David McFadden published in the Omaha World-Herald:

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - A U.S. conservation group announced Wednesday it would sue the federal government to force a decision on whether to protect 83 coral species it says are threatened by global warming and more acidic waters.

The Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity has sent notification of its intention to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service because the U.S. agency missed a deadline for an endangered species listing decision for dozens of coral species. A 60-day notification letter is required before a suit can be field.

Miyoko Sakashita, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said the corals, found in Florida, Hawaii and island territories in the Caribbean and Pacific, face a growing threat of extinction from rising ocean temperatures.

"Timing is of the essence to reverse the tragic decline of these vitally important reefs," Sakashita said. "We can't afford any delays in protecting corals under the Endangered Species Act."

Connie Barclay, a spokeswoman for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said Wednesday that agency scientists are working on the conservation group's petition to put 83 coral species on the endangered species list. They hope to publish their findings in the next two weeks.

Among the group's list of 83 species is the mountainous star coral, once considered the dominant reef building coral in the Atlantic, and the ivory tree coral, a branching coral found in the Caribbean whose delicate limbs provide shelter for numerous reef fish.

Sakashita said protection under the Endangered Species Act would create new conservation opportunities and provide for greater scrutiny of fishing, dredging and offshore oil development.

Reef-building coral is a fragile organism, a tiny polyp-like animal that builds a calcium-carbonate shell around itself and survives in a symbiotic relationship with types of algae - each providing sustenance to the other. Even a 1 degree Celsius (1.7 degree Fahrenheit) rise in normal maximum sea temperatures can disrupt that relationship.

Unusually warm waters in recent years has caused the animals that make up coral to expel the colorful algae they live with, creating a bleached color. If the problem persists, the coral itself dies - killing the environment where many fish and other marine organisms live.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Silver lining around Florida cold snap: More turtles tagged than ever

From an article from the Underwatertimes.com News Service:

TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- Even though the recent cold snap brought many cold-stunned sea turtles into shallow waters and onto shorelines across the state, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and its many partners saved the majority of the animals from certain death.

Frigid water temperatures stunned thousands of sea turtles throughout the state. If left unaided, most of these turtles would not have survived. Many would have been attacked by predators, been hit by boats or simply drowned. Rescuers worked feverishly for more than a week to save the immobilized animals, rescuing and eventually releasing nearly 80 percent of the affected sea turtles. FWC biologists are confident that most of the sea turtles will not suffer long-term impacts from the stunning event.

Additional good news is emerging from those who have been working diligently to save the animals. Rescue of the sea turtles by the FWC and its many partners could prove beneficial to the animals in the long term.

"We've been able to tag many more turtles than ever before, which enables us to learn about their biology," said Dr. Blair Witherington, FWC biologist. "It's been a great opportunity for data collection; it's unprecedented to have access to so many turtles at one time."


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lionfishes eat nearly anything that fits in their mouths

A lionfish spreading its fins herding and trapping prey fishes. From the site of Dr. Picciolo's summary.

Dr. Anthony Picciolo of NOAA's Coral Reef Information System (CoRIS) summarized a listserve discussion (coral-list@coral.aoml.noaa.gov) among marine professionals about the IndoPacific lionfish invasion of the U.S. south Atlantic sea coast and Caribbean Sea:

Lionfish experts are in agreement that invasive lionfish populations will continue to grow and cannot be eliminated using conventional methods. Lionfishes have become established along the southeastern coast of the United States, Bermuda, the Bahamas, and throughout the Caribbean. This places swimmers, snorkelers, divers, and fishermen at risk from their painful, venomous sting and leaves native reef fish populations and coral reef community stability at great risk from their interactions with this species. In a five-week experiment, scientists in the Bahamas established that lionfish can cause significant reductions (by 79%) in the recruitment of native fishes. One large lionfish was observed consuming 20 small fishes in a 30-minute period.

Lionfishes may, directly and indirectly, cause harm to coral reef ecosystems. As aggressive ambush predators with few predators of their own in their introduced range, lionfishes can quickly and alarmingly reduce local native reef fish (and some invertebrate) populations to the point where native piscivores cannot compete for these prey animals. This in-turn can cause a reduction in the growth and survival of the native predators. Stomach content analyses of lionfishes reveal a wide diversity in prey species and size classes. As stated by one participant in the discussion, lionfishes are eating nearly anything that will fit into their mouths.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Can cruise lines and the ocean coexist?

From an article by David Rosenfeld on eTurboNews

On a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, a few years back, Shauna and David Schober were snorkeling off the coast with a tour company that took them by boat to explore some underwater caves. But their snorkel excursion was cut short when less than a mile away a cruise ship discharged its septic tanks.

“As it was passing, the water behind it was bubbling up out of the back with almost like a sick green algae substance,” Shauna Schober said. “It looked like sewage, and you could smell it – like it was treated with chemicals, almost like it smells in a porta-potty.”

The tour guides said: Get out of the water. “They said the cruise ship was dumping its tanks and it was better not to be in the water,” she said.

The cruise line industry relies on pristine oceans, beautiful coral reefs and marine life to draw millions of travelers on cruise vacations each year. But the same ships that advertise excursions to untouched ocean scenery are threatening these very same natural resources with their standard practice of flushing harmful toxins, mostly as sewage and food waste, into the ocean.

These problems are not new or unknown. But the cruise line industry has been operating effectively with little federal government oversight for much of the past decade since Department of Justice in the late 1990s indicted the top three cruise companies for dumping oily bilge water (the stagnate oil and water that collect in the ship’s hull). Investigators found that ships had installed pipes – hidden in hand rails on some ships – that allowed crew members to bypass oil separators intended to purify the bilge water.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Big chill: Warmed-up sea turtles freed off Florida

From an Associated Press article by Brian Skoloff published in the Washinton Post:

JUNO BEACH, Fla. -- They came in crowded trucks and left by flipper: Hundreds of endangered sea turtles are being released back into the Atlantic Ocean now that Florida's weather has warmed enough.

Officials in the Sunshine State helped rescue nearly 3,000 turtles from frigid waters in the past week, plucking them from the ocean, lagoons and rivers as air temperatures dipped into the 30s along the coast.

The turtles - which weigh up to 400 pounds - were found across Florida as the unseasonably chilly temperatures sent them into a cold stress, leaving them stunned and largely motionless, the perfect prey for predators. Now after about a week of treatment, including soakings in heated pools and oxygen therapy, turtles by the truckload are headed back into the wild.

Tractor-trailer trucks full of turtles arrived Thursday at several Florida beaches, where the animals were hand-placed in the surf for their journey home. More were set to be released Friday.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti quake occurred in complex, active seismic region

From a news release issued by the Woods Hole Oceanogrphic Institution:

The magnitude 7.0 earthquake that triggered disastrous destruction and mounting death tolls in Haiti this week occurred in a highly complex tangle of tectonic faults near the intersection of the Caribbean and North American crustal plates, according to a quake expert at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) who has studied faults in the region and throughout the world.

Jian Lin, a WHOI senior scientist in geology and geophysics, said that even though the quake was “large but not huge,” there were three factors that made it particularly devastating: First, it was centered just 10 miles southwest of the capital city, Port au Prince; second, the quake was shallow—only about 10-15 kilometers below the land’s surface; third, and more importantly, many homes and buildings in the economically poor country were not built to withstand such a force and collapsed or crumbled.

All of these circumstances made the Jan. 12 earthquake a “worst-case scenario,” Lin said. Preliminary estimates of the death toll ranged from thousands to hundreds of thousands. “It should be a wake-up call for the entire Caribbean,” Lin said.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Coral can recover from climate change damage; fishing needs to be curbed

From an article on Science Daily:

ScienceDaily (Jan. 10, 2010) — A study by the University of Exeter provides the first evidence that coral reefs can recover from the devastating effects of climate change. Published Jan. 11, 2010 in the journal PLoS ONE, the research shows for the first time that coral reefs located in marine reserves can recover from the impacts of global warming.

Scientists and environmentalists have warned that coral reefs may not be able to recover from the damage caused by climate change and that these unique environments could soon be lost forever. Now, this research adds weight to the argument that reducing levels of fishing is a viable way of protecting the world's most delicate aquatic ecosystems.

Increases in ocean surface water temperatures subject coral reefs to stresses that lead quickly to mass bleaching. The problem is intensified by ocean acidification, which is also caused by increased CO2. This decreases the ability of corals to produce calcium carbonate (chalk), which is the material that reefs are made of.

Approximately 2% of the world's coral reefs are located within marine reserves, areas of the sea that are protected against potentially-damaging human activity, like dredging and fishing.

The researchers conducted surveys of ten sites inside and outside marine reserves of the Bahamas over 2.5 years. These reefs have been severely damaged by bleaching and then by hurricane Frances in the summer of 2004. At the beginning of the study, the reefs had an average of 7% coral cover. By the end of the project, coral cover in marine protected areas had increased by an average of 19%, while reefs in non-reserve sites showed no recovery.

Professor Peter Mumby of the University of Exeter said: "Coral reefs are the largest living structures on Earth and are home to the highest biodiversity on the planet. As a result of climate change, the environment that has enabled coral reefs to thrive for hundreds of thousands of years is changing too quickly for reefs to adapt.

"In order to protect reefs in the long-term we need radical action to reduce CO2 emissions. However, our research shows that local action to reduce the effects of fishing can contribute meaningfully to the fate of reefs. The reserve allowed the number of parrotfishes to increase and because parrotfish eat seaweeds, the corals could grow freely without being swamped by weeds. As a result, reefs inside the park were showing recovery whereas those with more seaweed were not. This sort of evidence may help persuade governments to reduce the fishing of key herbivores like parrotfishes and help reefs cope with the inevitable threats posed by climate change."


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What would eat a spiny urchin?!

From a post on Climate Shift by Dr. John Bruno who has done research in Akumal Bay:

The black spiny Caribbean urchin Diadema antillarum is a formitable looking creature. It is basically a pin cushion with black hypodermic needles for spines. It seems reasonable to conclude that its spines are an adaptation to deter predators, and moreover, that they would be fairly effective. In fact, many Caribbean reef scientists assume few predators can eat Diadema. For example, Harbone et al (2009) recently stated;

“Urchins are particularly susceptible to unregulated ‘plagues’ because only a few specialist predators can overcome their defensive spines“

But surprising as it might seem, a wide range of fishes and invertebrates consume Diadema and could control it’s behavior and population densities. (I love these natural history surprises that defy logic and human biases.)

Predators of Diadema include: snapper, jacks, porcupinefishes, trunkfishes, grunts including black margate, porgies, triggerfishes, pufferfish, large wrasses, parrotfish, octopuses, lobsters, large gastropods and even small crabs (which eat juvenile Diadema).

The classic paper on predators of Diadema on Caribbean reefs is Randall et al. (1964). This paper, published before I was born, is a masterpiece of natural history and an invaluable documentation of the ecology of Diadema before it was wiped out by a disease in the early 1980s. Randall et al. reported;

"Predators of D. antillarum include 15 fishes of the families Balistidae, Carangidae, Diodontidae, Labridae, ostraciidae, Sparidae, and Tetraodontidae, two gastropod of the genus Cassis, and the spiny lobster (Panulirus argus)."


Monday, January 11, 2010

Caribbean ecocide or where did the Cancun and Playa Del Carmen beaches go?

From a post on YUC Director, "your guide to Merida and Yucatan:"

Looking out across the dark Caribbean night from Punta Allen one sees three equally sized glowing areas on the distant horizon to the north. The furthest out is Cancun, the next Playa del Carmen and the last Tulum.

Cancun has a bit less than a million people; Playa has 300,000 and Tulum now over 30,000. Playa Del Carmen is the fastest growing municipality in Mexico.

But from Punta Allen each lighted area appears to be the same size since Cancun is farther away than Playa and Playa is farther away than Tulum. The three groups of lights are a reminder of the environmental impact of civilization, including light pollution.

In the next 20 years these three lights will merge.

Biologists report the coral reefs are dead out from Cancun, dying off the coast of Playa Del Carmen and starting to die off Tulum. Progress, people and pollution are taking their toll.

If the reefs die, scuba diving will go soon thereafter and that is a major source of tourist dollars. Scuba diving, unlike snorkeling, is not cheap.

The turtles are also moving south. Cancun has too much activity so the turtles are moving down the Riviera Maya coast and eventually will all move into the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve.

The turtles are of course protected and the cute critters even have a radical environmental group just to make sure they stay around.

But many other creatures, like the pink conch and the jaguar, are slowly dying off as well. Such is progress.

The beaches too are dying.

Hurricane Wilma devastated the beaches on the Cancun strip and the replaced sand was not white and had broken shells in it and was not pleasing to the tourists.

Playacar Resort in Playa del Carmen is now being overtaken by water as the beach has totally washed away. Que pasa?

Hurricanes and storms seasonally move through the coast causing widespread damage and beach erosion.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cold snap stuns turtles

From an article by Sarah Hoye on Tampa Online:

Frigid waters stranded 93 sea turtles along the beaches of Florida's east coast on Wednesday.

The Florida Aquarium Animal Rescue Team will rescue 6 to 8 of sea turtles. They will board and rehabilitate the creatures until the waters warm up.

"There's not anything wrong with them," Wagner said. "We just need to warm them up."

The sea turtles are "cold stunned" said Jeni Hatter, spokeswoman for the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, who are also helping with the rescue efforts.

Because the sea turtles are cold-blooded reptiles (they do not maintain a regular body temperature) they take on the temperature around them and go into a somewhat state of shock.

"They stop swimming, they stop eating, and just start to float," Hatter said, and added that they are taking in 8 turtles today. "Every facility that can take in turtles are doing it."


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Only 150 days until World Oceans Day; start planning!

From The Ocean Project:

Start the year off on an ocean theme! The more you learn about our amazing blue planet, the more you will find that a healthy ocean is essential not only for the future of the fish, the coral reefs, and all life in the ocean, but also for our own future. No matter where you live, your actions impact the ocean and you can make a difference!

Remember to plan an event for World Oceans Day 2010 - it promises to be the biggest and best one ever. It seems far off but is only 150 days away so start planning an event soon!

Please visit www.WorldOceansDay.org to get ideas, inspiration, submit your event online, and connect with others. We also welcome feedback on how best to improve the website for our partners and other friends. A new design and new content is coming soon! Send your thoughts to Bill at bmott@theoceanproject.org. We are also looking for help in translating the site so please contact if you are able to help.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Sharks killed for oil used in swine flu vaccine

From an article by James Owen on National Geographic:

Vaccines being made to protect people from swine flu may not be so healthy for threatened species of sharks.

That's because millions of doses of the pandemic H1N1/09 vaccine contain a substance called squalene, which is extracted from shark livers. (Get more swine flu facts.)

More commonly found in beauty products such as skin creams, squalene can be used to make an adjuvant, a compound that boosts the body's immune response.

The World Health Organization recommends adjuvant-based vaccines, because they allow drug makers to create doses that use less of the active component, increasing available supplies.

Olive oil, wheat germ oil, and rice bran oil also naturally contain squalene, albeit in smaller amounts. But for now squalene is primarily harvested from sharks caught by commercial fishers, especially deepwater species. (Related: "Tomato, Tobacco Plants Produce SARS Vaccine.")

"There are several very disturbing issues associated with use of shark-liver-oil squalene," said Mary O'Malley, co-founder of the volunteer-run advocacy group Shark Safe Network.

"The deepwater sharks targeted have extremely low reproductive rates, and many are threatened species."

For example, one supplier has dubbed the gulper shark the Rolls-Royce of squalene-producing sharks—but the gulper is listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN's) Red List of Threatened Species, meaning the species faces a high risk of extinction.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Wear Blue for the Oceans, January 13

From the Facebook page of Wear Blue for the Ocean:

This is an invitation to begin building a movement to restore the health of our ocean. On January 13, 2010 we invite you to WEAR SOMETHING BLUE for the ocean and organize an event or gathering to make our message visible.

Who are we?
We are a group of committed citizens who have a common goal: to ensure that the public recognizes the need to restore the health of our ocean and the vast potential for good of a new ecologically sound U.S. Ocean Policy. We seek to unite on January 13, with purpose of taking our message to our leaders. . . .

January 13, 2010
Early 2010 will be a critical time to advance policy for the effective management of our ocean resources. On January 13, we invite you to wear blue and unite with others to take this message to our leaders. Please take pictures or video and upload them. And spread the word!

Want to post?
Ed Blume, a volunteer for Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA), moderates the blog. Anyone wishing to post can contact Ed at ed@ceakumal.org.

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